DovahQueen: Bend the Knee
Since 2015, the DovahQueen has been taking your questions and giving advice to improve your games. Now the tables are turned in this DovahQueen series; Loren is asking the questions and a panel of guests answers. It’s time to Bend the Knee!
First, let’s meet today’s guests.
Guests – Find the Path
I am Rick Sandidge, the host and Gamemaster for the Find the Path Podcast. I’ve been an avid TTRPG player since the mid-90’s and obsessed with d20 systems since the old AD&D days. While I loved the 3.0/3.5 D&D system I, like so many others, jumped into Pathfinder during the Beta test and have never looked back. After years of playing with various groups I eventually met the wonderful people I now game with and together we launched the Find the Path Podcast! While I do enjoy sometimes just playing Pathfinder my true passion is sitting behind the GM screen and breathing life (sometimes unholy life) into the amazing tales in the Pathfinder Adventure Path line. When not running, recording, or editing Pathfinder games I enjoy playing video games and reading. I have a particular fondness for late nineteenth and early twentieth horror novels and weird fiction. Also cats. I love cats.
I am Rachel Sandidge, and I have been playing Pathfinder since meeting my now husband, Rick Sandidge, nearly 8 years ago. He agreed to teach myself, and a few close friends how to play, and y’know, at this point, we may be a little hooked. In fact, I’m currently part of the Find the Path Podcast where I play in several different games. For Mummy’s Mask, I play the artistic Rogue, Sitra Naham-ra, and for our Patreon exclusive game of Tyran’t Grasp, I play Darcy Driscoll, the pessimistic tattooed sorcerer. My most recent character is that of Vittoria Scordato, a dedicated investigator in our Hell’s Rebels campaign.
I have always enjoyed the creative outlet of character creation. After hearing about a campaign, I usually have a few ideas dancing about in my head. Thankfully, my day job allows me to be just as creative as I currently write content for educational games. I am responsible for writing stories, lessons, and conversation dialogue. It’s incredibly rewarding, and I do my best to write something students would actually want to read or play. I can empathize with Paizo writers who do their best to write adventures that thousands of people, all with different opinions, will enjoy playing. It’s definitely not as easy as people think.
My first experience with TTRPGs was the Dungeons and Dragons Basic Game way back in high school. Nowadays I’m part of the Find the Path crew. You can find me playing characters like Hollis, Ailsa, and Adria in our actual play podcasts. When I’m not playing, I make my money designing EdTech games to teach kids how to read because reading is the gateway to a better life (and dragons).
I’ve been playing pen and paper RPGs for seven years, almost entirely Pathfinder with a splash for Starfinder for fun. Since we started Find the Path, I’ve played in every show we’ve done, and contributed to and edited our Research Check and Share Lore podcasts. Outside of roleplaying I work as a software engineer, architect, and manager.
About Find the Path
Composed of a group of longtime friends, Find the Path produces content that invites gamers and non-gamers alike into the Age of Lost Omens and the Pathfinder RPG system. Known for their strong grasp of the Pathfinder rules system and genuine, cooperative table dynamics, Find the Path tells engaging and exciting stories full of diverse, multifaceted characters and epic fantasy adventure. Their deep understanding and respect for real-world history and culture truly brings the world of Pathfinder to life for listeners, and their ability to seamlessly weave explanations of the rules into the story is a great way for those who want to play Pathfinder to get an introduction to the system. Along with high quality audio and a respectful attitude toward each other and listeners, Find the Path is building a vibrant, positive community.
“Bards sing of the brave adventurers that destroyed Xandarion many years ago, but if that’s true, then why is an army of the undead massing in the northern swamps near his old fort? Has the old lich returned? Did he escape justice all those years ago? It’s almost impossible to know what really happened on that fateful mission from the tales, but one thing is certain—this growing threat must not be allowed to endanger the kingdom once again. Queen Sivrunn has offered a fortune to any brave heroes that can stop this threat before it grows out of hand, and a team of heroes has answered the call.
The stale air of this ancient, dying forest tastes acrid, but you haven’t the time to worry about such unpleasantries. Your party’s boots push dark indents in the soggy soil while you plod your way to the lich’s castle. Xandarion may think he’s got the upper hand, but you know something he doesn’t. The hostage in his dungeon? A plant. It was all part of the plan to allow the old fool to put *this* person behind bars. As you and your comrades near the dilapidated fort, it’s not the life of your agent on the inside that you’re worried about. It’s your own.”
For each of you, your favorite PC joins the adventuring party to go investigate and put a stop to the threat in the swamps. Who is it and why are they your favorite?
Rick: I probably have an easier time picking my favorite character than the rest of the FtP crew as I’ve actually only played in a few games and so I have a smaller selection to choose from. Of these there is one that particularly stands out, my Carrion Crown character.
When it comes to making characters I take a different approach than many players, as I am more used to thinking about a story from the Gamemasters viewpoint. I usually start with what I know of the Adventure Path and then try to make the character I would most like to see if I were the GM for the campaign. In the case of Carrion Crown I knew from the Players Guide that it’s a story of Gothic Horror set in the undead haunted nation of Ustalav and that it began with the party attending the funeral for a late professor. Knowing this I decided on an academic and former student of the professor turned adventurer, and so my human inquisitor Gavril Valduvra was born!
I began with three ideas I wanted to mesh together into one character. First was the academic angle, which fit wonderfully with the gothic horror fell of the adventure. Just look at how many well educated figures are central protagonists in the novels Carrion Crown takes inspiration from! Second, I knew from the start that I wanted to play a devout follower of Pharasma as she is the largest faith in the nation, and I loved the idea of playing an inquisitor as a hunter of the undead. The idea of a Victorian style inquisitor brought to mind all these images of D from Vampire Hunter D, the hunters from Bloodborne, or the Brotherhood of the Wolf. Thirdly, I wanted to add a bit of the Weird that would help explain why he became an adventurer. I chose the Reincarnated trait for Gavril and decided that he was the seventh reincarnation of a warrior that fell during the Shining Crusade that Pharasma wouldn’t grant final rest until he achieved an unknown goal.
I combined these three ideas together and mixed in a fair bit of tragedy to create what was honestly a wonderful character to play. Gavril was a favored student of the Professor and even taught for a time at the University of Lepidstadt. There he met a traveling investigator, a Sleepless Detective who sought him out for his expertise on the undead, and the two soon fell in love and married. They had a single daughter and lived a happy life for nearly a decade, until his wife was murdered mysteriously. In grief Gavril turned to his faith and in prayer learned of
his previous incarnations. With this knowledge he fully embraced the Goddess of Fate believing that she would lead him to his wife’s killers. Gavril unjustly blamed the Professor for his wife’s death as he had been helping her in the investigation that got her killed. He severed all ties with the Professor the day of his wife’s funeral. While he eventually came to realize his mistake in this he never had the opportunity to apologize before the Professor himself died.
I left a lot of details vague in my backstory and fellow FtP crew member Ross Scoggin, who was the Gamemaster for the story, did a wonderful job linking it all to the Adventure Path. Gavril eventually discovered his wife’s killers, atoned for his failures as a friend to the Professor, and perhaps eventually broke the cycle of reincarnation, though only time will tell if that’s true. Heck, Gavril was even able to move on from his grief and found love again!
I think the thing I enjoyed the most about this character was the way he fit into the party and the setting. I unintentionally made a character that became a defacto older brother figure for most of the group. He was rarely the central protagonist of the story, but often played a mentor role and I felt he helped move the story forward. I also found that by making a character so closely tied to the setting and theme of the story that I was always engaged in both the narrative and action.
So yeah, Gavril Valduvra, the best character I ever made!
Rachel: Favorite character, huh? I doubt anyone in my gamer group is going to be surprised by my answer. A few years back our group participated in the beta test for the Advanced Class Guide, and I created Theodora Fellows, my halfling investigator who could put Sherlock’s know-it-all nature to shame. Granted her original iteration in the play test wasn’t quite so obnoxious. I was still feeling out the character so I focused on learning the mechanics more than anything else. I enjoyed that aspect so much, I decided to use the same character for our groups’ run through of Rise of the Rune Lords. Thus I delved more into her backstory, and why she was the way she was.
Theodora was the youngest of 5 children, and quite Matilda-esque in that she read anything and everything she could get her hands on. She did get a slight high from knowing information other people didn’t and I leaned into that as I played the character. Much of her backstory involved building her intellect, and proving herself to others however she could. Unfortunately, this had a habit of rubbing people the wrong way. In fact, the reason my character began the campaign in Sandpoint was because she ticked off a nobleman and found herself banned from Magnimar.
I didn’t end up using the more alchemical leanings of the Investigator. I went for the Steelhound archetype that gave Theodora a firearm. There may have been a few occasions where my fellow players may or may not have been shot instead of our enemies, but it was never intentional, which Theodora was sure to point out. But Theodora, while a damage dealer with her gun, was more of a boon out of combat because of her knowledge skills. She had no fear about questioning anyone about anything. She even sassed a Rune Lord straight to his face.
I think I enjoyed playing Theodora so much because the character was a bit of a caricature of myself. I love mysteries, am just a bit competitive (a lot competitive), and enjoy learning about anything and everything. As a writer that’s pretty much a requirement. Theodora, however, ramps everything up to 11, and it was just fun.
So while I have created many a character, Theodora, my sassy investigator, continues to be my favorite.
Jessica: Wow, it’s hard to pick a favorite character because I put a little of myself in every one I make. But since I have to pick just one to wax poetic about, I’d love to tell you all about my character in our Mummy’s Mask actual play. Hollis Starkweather is an elven wizard from Quantium by-way-of the Mana Wastes. She dresses like an old school cowboy, has a broken pistol, and carries around her silkie chicken familiar, Sugar. She speaks with a southern drawl, thinks magic should be the answer to every problem, and has over 10 ranks in Profession Cook. Mummy’s Mask is set in the Golarian analogue of Ancient Egypt. So Hollis feels a little like playing a hyper-smart, magical “American” from The Mummy movie with Brendan Fraser. Though I try to play Hollis as friendly and helpful, even when she doesn’t have to be. Hollis is Ace, and while she could be sad that everyone around her will die before she does, she tends to focus on the fact that magic can mostly prevent that if people are amenable to the idea. Like… Living Monoliths and constructs don’t age, right?
She’s also the first wizard I’ve ever gotten to play to a higher level than five (long story — I thought wizards were cursed because games where I played them always fell apart), and IT IS GLORIOUS! I picked abjuration as her Arcane School because I really wanted to challenge the way people think about wizards. They aren’t all about the big booms, y’know? Playing Hollis, who is now 11th level, is a lot like playing three-dimensional chess and that’s what I love about playing her. Sure, I can cast a Fireball, but is that the most flavorful or interesting thing to do? How can I take spells that someone would usually overlook and just checkmate a bad guy? Delightful.
On top of all of that, Sugar is such a fun familiar. She’s a super fluffy, white silkie chicken, which is already ridiculous, and she has a cool archetype. The Sage Archetype gives her bardic knowledge, her own skill ranks, and a bonus to her Knowledge checks equal to half Hollis’s level. She’s also SO SMART! I think her Intelligence is up to 14 now? I made sure that Hollis didn’t take any ranks in Knowledge: Nobility so that I could hand those checks over to Sugar. I explain this as Sugar likes to watch and read up on her “stories” which is all the hot goss about the nobles.
I think one of the best things about playing Hollis is doing something that surprises Rick, our GM. Anytime I can cast a spell or think of an idea that makes Rick go, “Hmm.” and spend a few minutes looking things up or thinking about how to respond, I consider that a win for the day.
Jordan: As a player who’s always been interested in exploring myself through my roleplay, my favorite character of all time is actually Octavius Black. Octavius is my character for Find the Path’s Patreon-exclusive podcast of Tyrant’s Grasp. While at the time of this writing we’re only in the second book of the adventure path, Octavius is a very different character from the type I usually play. Octavius is an oracle of battle who fought in the World Wound before hanging up his sword to get married, have a kid, and settle down as a woodworker. At the start of the adventure Octavius suffers from PTSD, functional alcoholism, and a permanent case of “the grumps”. He’s gone rusty, which is a very un-Gorumite thing to do! His days pre-adventure involve whittling handles for tools and being haunted by the friends he lost in the war. Which also makes him a deeply flawed husband and father. You’ll obviously have to listen to learn more about him. But Octavius is different because, while I always put a part of myself in my characters, Octavius required more research, and more careful consideration than I usually do for my characters.
The subject of mental health is a very sensitive subject, especially when you’re tackling it publicly for a podcast. While I have a history of ADHD and depression, PTSD is another beast entirely, and a very real condition that will affect an estimated one in eleven people in the U.S. alone during their lifetime. I did a ton of research on the condition, including symptoms, treatments, and learned a lot in the process. I walk a careful line in being authentic to that kind of character and being effective as a PC in a TTRPG where other players are depending on my character to come through. Octavius represents a huge challenge in that matter, on top of what’s in store in the Tyrant’s Grasp adventure path.
For me, that’s the fun of it. I like a challenge, whether it’s finding a new funny accent to do for a character or solving a seemingly impossible situation. Octavius lets me be tactically vulnerable. Octavius is a surprisingly cathartic character to play. I’m not a person who shows a lot of anger in my personal and professional life. I tend to handle it by playing violent video games or talking it out. But there is something fun about saying the occasional rude thing or screaming out vengeful words against your enemies. Or crying. Tyrant’s Grasp is a real roller-coaster. The emotional moments have been the most fun in playing Octavius, and makes him a joy to come back to week after week.
I’ve heard from my guests; now I want to hear from you. Who’s your favorite character? Leave a comment below, on our Discord, or on Know Direction’s Facebook page.